Posts Tagged ‘Professor’

The State of Puerto Rican Politics in New York City

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Boricua Power

The National Institute for Latino Policy
invites you to a roundtable

Discussion based on José Ramón Sánchez’ new book
Boricua Power: A Political History of Puerto Ricans in the United States

Tuesday, May 15, 6:15pm

NYU Wagner
The Puck Building, 2nd Floor Conference Room
295 Lafayette Street (and Houston Street)
New York, NY 10012-9604

(B,D,F,V to Broadway-Lafayette, N,R,W to Prince Street, 6 to Bleecker Street)

Roundtable Participants

Alicia Cardona
Author: Rambling on Random Thoughts and New York Puerto Rican Women Achievers

Arlene Davila:
Professor, Anthropology, Social and Cultural Analysis (American Studies)
New York University, author: Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos and the Neoliberal City; Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People; and Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico

David Diaz
Distinguished Lecturer in Media & Politics, City College (CUNY);
formerly senior correspondent and anchor on WCBS and WNBC-TV

José A. García
Senior Research and Policy Associate, Demos: A Network for Ideas
and Action; and author, East Coast Latino Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Manual

Mickey Melendez
Author, We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords

Councilmember Melissa Mark Viverito
Democrat representing District 8

Joseph Wiscovitch
President, Wiscovitch Associates

Respondent

José Ramón Sánchez
Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of Urban Studies,
Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus

Moderator

Angelo Falcón
President and Co-Founder, National Institute for Latino Policy; and author, Atlas of Stateside Puerto Ricans,
and co-editor, Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City

Co-sponsored by the

Women of Color Policy Network
at NYUWagner
RSVP with
Wynnie Lamour 212-334-5722 or wlamour@nlcatp.org

QUEER LATINO TESTIMONIO

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Barnes & Noble Bookstore (Upper Westside)
2289 Broadway at 82nd Street
New York City

Join Us!

Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:00 p.m.

QUEER LATINO TESTIMONIO, KEITH HARING, AND JUANITO XTRAVAGANZA

Hard Tails

Author Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé will be joined in a reading from his new book by Jorge
Merced, Associate Artistic Director of Pregones Theater, and will sign copies.

In the tradition of the Latin American testimonio, Queer Latino Testimonio is the story of Juan Rivera, a.k.a. Juanito Xtravaganza, a Latino runaway youth who ends up homeless in the streets of New York in the late 70s and becomes partner of the internationally famous 1980s Pop artist Keith Haring during some of the most frenetically productive years of his brief life, as told to the author and retold by him. A hybrid text–part testimonio, part linguistic and cultural analysis, and part art criticism–this is also a history of New York Latino neighborhoods during this
period of devastating disinvestment and gentrification, as well as a personal, heart-felt meditation on the art of listening and the ethical limits of representing queer Latino lives.

Praise for Queer Latino Testimonio, Keith Haring, and Juanito Xtravaganza

“A story of the abject, an urban cultural history, and a literary meditation, Queer Latino Testimonio is a glorious assemblage of voices, images, rhythms, and sensualities of the turbulent last two decades of twentieth century New York City. A stirring portrait of the upheavals, deaths, and hopeful futures of bodies under siege. A marvelous piece of scholarship!”–Martin F. Manalansan IV, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora

“Narrated with sensitivity and style, Queer Latino Testimonio reminds us that the greatest of our cultural icons are never simply isolated geniuses, but instead reflections of the messy, funky, difficult, exasperating and exciting realities of everyday life. In a word, the book you hold in your hands is legendary!”–Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Professor of English, CUNY Graduate School, and author of Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual

“A thrilling biography of a character that is both real and imagined, and a fresh vision of what Cultural Studies can become.”–Mayra Santos-Febres, Professor of Hispanic Literatures, University of Puerto Rico, and author of Sirena Selena

“An alluring, uncompromising tale of tails in the waning years of the age of x-travagance, and the dawn of the age of AIDS.”–Rubén Ríos-Avila, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Puerto Rico, and author of La Raza Cómica.

Event is free and open to the public, but subject to change. Please call ahead to confirm. 212-721-5282

Cultural Survival, Political Resistance and Sustainable Development in Contemporary Puerto Rico

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

A Seminar and Discussion presented by Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture

Tuesday, October 7, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Hostos Art Gallery
Hostos Community College/CUNY
450 Grand Concourse (at 149 St.)
The Bronx

Admission is free. To register, call 718-518-4455

Transp: IRT 2, 4, 5, Bx1 & Bx19 to Grand Concourse & 149 St.

. . . a bilingual (English-Spanish) one-day seminar on the effects of development and globalization on traditional cultures in Puerto Rico focusing on the recent history of the coastal communities of Loíza and Piñones and the island of Vieques. The participants represent a cross section of leaders in the struggle for cultural and environmental survival: educators, cultural activists and advocates of alternative strategies for development.

The seminar serves as an introduction to BomPlenazo 2008, the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture’s biennial celebration of Afro-Puerto Rican culture. This year, the festival will focus on the bomba and plena music and dance traditions as they are practiced in the communities of Loíza and Piñones, two of the principal centers of Afro-Puerto Rican culture.

Founded by runaway slaves and freedmen in the 19th century, Loíza and its neighborhood of Piñones, with their beautiful coastline and coconut groves, have become a symbol of cultural tenacity as many loiceños have bravely resisted development efforts that threaten their cultural traditions and the beauty of their communities.

This seminar will also focus on the recent history of Vieques, the struggle to end naval bombing of the island and the implementation of a strategy for sustainable development. The island’s recent history, characterized by military and economic assaults, mirrors that of Loiza and Piñones.

Program

8:30–9
Registration, coffee

9–9:30
Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Juan Flores, Ph.D., moderator, Professor, Black and Puerto Rican Studies, NYU
The Hon. José Rivera, New York State Assemblyman

9:30–10:30
Piñones & Isla Verde, the Historical Context
Juan Giusti, Professor, University of Puerto Rico

10:30-10:45
Break

10:45-11:45
The Struggle for Piñones: Political & Economic Aspects
Maricruz Rivera Clemente, President, Corporación Piñones se Integra

11:45-12:45
The Struggle for Vieques: Post Navy Bombardment
Robert Rabin, Director, Museo Fuerte Conde Mirasol, Vieques

12:45-1:30
Lunch

1:30-2:30
The Role of Popular Action in Environmental Preservation
Alberto de Jesús, a.k.a., Tito Kayak, Environmental Activist

2:30-3:30
Microenterprises: A Strategy for Sustainable Development
Nilda Medina, Director, Incubadora de Microempresas Bieke

3:30-3:45
Break

3:45-4:00
Observations and Conclusions
Juan Flores, Professor, Black and Puerto Rican Studies, NYU

4:00
Acto Cultural

Raúl Ayala
This seminar was made possible by a legislative initiative grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through the offices of New York State Assemblyman José Rivera. It is an integral part of the Hostos Creative Campus Project, a collaboration between the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture and the Hostos Community College/CUNY Humanities Department. The creative campus project has been funded by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Creative Campus Innovations Grant Program funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

SOTOMAYOR’s OFTEN QUOTED SPEECH

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The following is the text of the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001, delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, by appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor. It was published in the Spring 2002 issue of Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, a symposium issue entitled “Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation,” and it is reproduced here with permission from the journal.

“A Latina Judge’s Voice”

By Sonia Sotomayor

Judge Reynoso, thank you for that lovely introduction. I am humbled to be speaking behind a man who has contributed so much to the Hispanic community. I am also grateful to have such kind words said about me.

I am delighted to be here. It is nice to escape my hometown for just a little bit. It is also nice to say hello to old friends who are in the audience, to rekindle contact with old acquaintances and to make new friends among those of you in the audience. It is particularly heart warming to me to be attending a conference to which I was invited by a Latina law school friend, Rachel Moran, who is now an accomplished and widely respected legal scholar. I warn Latinos in this room: Latinas are making a lot of progress in the old-boy network.

I am also deeply honored to have been asked to deliver the annual Judge Mario G. Olmos lecture. I am joining a remarkable group of prior speakers who have given this lecture. I hope what I speak about today continues to promote the legacy of that man whose commitment to public service and abiding dedication to promoting equality and justice for all people inspired this memorial lecture and the conference that will follow. I thank Judge Olmos’ widow Mary Louise’s family, her son and the judge’s many friends for hosting me. And for the privilege you have bestowed on me in honoring the memory of a very special person. If I and the many people of this conference can accomplish a fraction of what Judge Olmos did in his short but extraordinary life we and our respective communities will be infinitely better.

I intend tonight to touch upon the themes that this conference will be discussing this weekend and to talk to you about my Latina identity, where it came from, and the influence I perceive it has on my presence on the bench.

Who am I? I am a “Newyorkrican.” For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.

Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful. The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.

For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandules y pernil – rice, beans and pork – that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events. My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, — pig intestines, patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigs’ tongue and ears. I bet the Mexican-Americans in this room are thinking that Puerto Ricans have unusual food tastes. Some of us, like me, do. Part of my Latina identity is the sound of merengue at all our family parties and the heart wrenching Spanish love songs that we enjoy. It is the memory of Saturday afternoon at the movies with my aunt and cousins watching Cantinflas, who is not Puerto Rican, but who was an icon Spanish comedian on par with Abbot and Costello of my generation. My Latina soul was nourished as I visited and played at my grandmother’s house with my cousins and extended family. They were my friends as I grew up. Being a Latina child was watching the adults playing dominos on Saturday night and us kids playing loteria, bingo, with my grandmother calling out the numbers which we marked on our cards with chick peas.

Now, does any one of these things make me a Latina? Obviously not because each of our Carribean and Latin American communities has their own unique food and different traditions at the holidays. I only learned about tacos in college from my Mexican-American roommate. Being a Latina in America also does not mean speaking Spanish. I happen to speak it fairly well. But my brother, only three years younger, like too many of us educated here, barely speaks it. Most of us born and bred here, speak it very poorly.

If I had pursued my career in my undergraduate history major, I would likely provide you with a very academic description of what being a Latino or Latina means. For example, I could define Latinos as those peoples and cultures populated or colonized by Spain who maintained or adopted Spanish or Spanish Creole as their language of communication. You can tell that I have been very well educated. That antiseptic description however, does not really explain the appeal of morcilla – pig’s intestine – to an American born child. It does not provide an adequate explanation of why individuals like us, many of whom are born in this completely different American culture, still identify so strongly with those communities in which our parents were born and raised.

America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between “the melting pot and the salad bowl” — a recently popular metaphor used to described New York’s diversity – is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences. In this time of great debate we must remember that it is not political struggles that create a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puertorriqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it. But achieving success here is no easy accomplishment for Latinos or Latinas, and although that struggle did not and does not create a Latina identity, it does inspire how I live my life.

I was born in the year 1954. That year was the fateful year in which Brown v. Board of Education was decided. When I was eight, in 1961, the first Latino, the wonderful Judge Reynaldo Garza, was appointed to the federal bench, an event we are celebrating at this conference. When I finished law school in 1979, there were no women judges on the Supreme Court or on the highest court of my home state, New York. There was then only one Afro-American Supreme Court Justice and then and now no Latino or Latina justices on our highest court. Now in the last twenty plus years of my professional life, I have seen a quantum leap in the representation of women and Latinos in the legal profession and particularly in the judiciary. In addition to the appointment of the first female United States Attorney General, Janet Reno, we have seen the appointment of two female justices to the Supreme Court and two female justices to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court of my home state. One of those judges is the Chief Judge and the other is a Puerto Riqueña, like I am. As of today, women sit on the highest courts of almost all of the states and of the territories, including Puerto Rico. One Supreme Court, that of Minnesota, had a majority of women justices for a period of time.

As of September 1, 2001, the federal judiciary consisting of Supreme, Circuit and District Court Judges was about 22% women. In 1992, nearly ten years ago, when I was first appointed a District Court Judge, the percentage of women in the total federal judiciary was only 13%. Now, the growth of Latino representation is somewhat less favorable. As of today we have, as I noted earlier, no Supreme Court justices, and we have only 10 out of 147 active Circuit Court judges and 30 out of 587 active district court judges. Those numbers are grossly below our proportion of the population. As recently as 1965, however, the federal bench had only three women serving and only one Latino judge. So changes are happening, although in some areas, very slowly. These figures and appointments are heartwarming. Nevertheless, much still remains to happen.

Let us not forget that between the appointments of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 and Justice Ginsburg in 1992, eleven years passed. Similarly, between Justice Kaye’s initial appointment as an Associate Judge to the New York Court of Appeals in 1983, and Justice Ciparick’s appointment in 1993, ten years elapsed. Almost nine years later, we are waiting for a third appointment of a woman to both the Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals and of a second minority, male or female, preferably Hispanic, to the Supreme Court. In 1992 when I joined the bench, there were still two out of 13 circuit courts and about 53 out of 92 district courts in which no women sat. At the beginning of September of 2001, there are women sitting in all 13 circuit courts. The First, Fifth, Eighth and Federal Circuits each have only one female judge, however, out of a combined total number of 48 judges. There are still nearly 37 district courts with no women judges at all. For women of color the statistics are more sobering. As of September 20, 1998, of the then 195 circuit court judges only two were African-American women and two Hispanic women. Of the 641 district court judges only twelve were African-American women and eleven Hispanic women. African-American women comprise only 1.56% of the federal judiciary and Hispanic-American women comprise only 1%. No African-American, male or female, sits today on the Fourth or Federal circuits. And no Hispanics, male or female, sit on the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, District of Columbia or Federal Circuits.

Sort of shocking, isn’t it? This is the year 2002. We have a long way to go. Unfortunately, there are some very deep storm warnings we must keep in mind. In at least the last five years the majority of nominated judges the Senate delayed more than one year before confirming or never confirming were women or minorities. I need not remind this audience that Judge Paez of your home Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, has had the dubious distinction of having had his confirmation delayed the longest in Senate history. These figures demonstrate that there is a real and continuing need for Latino and Latina organizations and community groups throughout the country to exist and to continue their efforts of promoting women and men of all colors in their pursuit for equality in the judicial system.

This weekend’s conference, illustrated by its name, is bound to examine issues that I hope will identify the efforts and solutions that will assist our communities. The focus of my speech tonight, however, is not about the struggle to get us where we are and where we need to go but instead to discuss with you what it all will mean to have more women and people of color on the bench. The statistics I have been talking about provide a base from which to discuss a question which one of my former colleagues on the Southern District bench, Judge Miriam Cederbaum, raised when speaking about women on the federal bench. Her question was: What do the history and statistics mean? In her speech, Judge Cederbaum expressed her belief that the number of women and by direct inference people of color on the bench, was still statistically insignificant and that therefore we could not draw valid scientific conclusions from the acts of so few people over such a short period of time. Yet, we do have women and people of color in more significant numbers on the bench and no one can or should ignore pondering what that will mean or not mean in the development of the law. Now, I cannot and do not claim this issue as personally my own. In recent years there has been an explosion of research and writing in this area. On one of the panels tomorrow, you will hear the Latino perspective in this debate.

For those of you interested in the gender perspective on this issue, I commend to you a wonderful compilation of articles published on the subject in Vol. 77 of the Judicature, the Journal of the American Judicature Society of November-December 1993. It is on Westlaw/Lexis and I assume the students and academics in this room can find it.

Now Judge Cedarbaum expresses concern with any analysis of women and presumably again people of color on the bench, which begins and presumably ends with the conclusion that women or minorities are different from men generally. She sees danger in presuming that judging should be gender or anything else based. She rightly points out that the perception of the differences between men and women is what led to many paternalistic laws and to the denial to women of the right to vote because we were described then “as not capable of reasoning or thinking logically” but instead of “acting intuitively.” I am quoting adjectives that were bandied around famously during the suffragettes’ movement.

While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address. I accept the thesis of a law school classmate, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School, in his affirmative action book that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought. Thus, as noted by another Yale Law School Professor — I did graduate from there and I am not really biased except that they seem to be doing a lot of writing in that area – Professor Judith Resnik says that there is not a single voice of feminism, not a feminist approach but many who are exploring the possible ways of being that are distinct from those structured in a world dominated by the power and words of men. Thus, feminist theories of judging are in the midst of creation and are not and perhaps will never aspire to be as solidified as the established legal doctrines of judging can sometimes appear to be.

That same point can be made with respect to people of color. No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. Yet, because I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, “to judge is an exercise of power” and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states “there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives – no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging,” I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that–it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father’s visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women’s claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants’ claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.

In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

I also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation. For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach. For all of us, how do change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?

Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering. We, I mean all of us in this room, must continue individually and in voices united in organizations that have supported this conference, to think about these questions and to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making.

I am delighted to have been here tonight and extend once again my deepest gratitude to all of you for listening and letting me share my reflections on being a Latina voice on the bench. Thank you.

Howard Jordan’s Response to Black Agenda Report (BAR) article about Sotomayor

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Below please find a reply I wrote to the recent article by “Black Agenda Report (BAR) the journal of African American political thought and action” on an article entitled “Sonia Sotomayor: She’s No Clarence Thomas, But No Thurgood Marshall Either” by managing editor Bruce A. Dixon. I invite all readers to write BAR and express your opinion on this important nomination. The article is on the following website: http://www.blackagendareport.com/

Black Agenda Report(BAR) Joins the Anti-Latino Sotomayor Agenda
By Howard Jordan

I was saddened to witness Black Agenda Report (BAR) join the chorus of attacks on Latina justice Sonia Sotomayor. The article “Sonia Sotomayor: She’s No Clarence Thomas, But No Thurgood Marshall Either” by managing editor Bruce A. Dixon trivializes the historic importance of the nomination of the first Latina to the court. It also does a disservice to the Puerto Rican/Latino legal and political experience in the United States. Let me address some the points you raise:
First you argue that corporate media is exaggerating the importance of the nomination and it just feeds the notion that anybody can overcome racism in America. As a New York born Puerto Rican/Latino the importance of the nomination to our community is unprecedented. Though racism is structural and will not be eliminated by one appointment Mr. Dixon the narrative is important. A diabetic Latina, who lost her father when she was nine, raised in a housing project speaking a foreign language, attended Princeton, was editor a Yale Law Review, and served on the bench for seventeen years is a tribute and recognition of the important contributions Latin@s have made to this nation. The elevation of Thurgood Marshal to the Supreme Court during that historical period received the same sense of elation in the African-American community. It is as one Dominican legislator noted a “Jackie Robinson moment” for the 40 million Latinos in the U.S.
I am troubled that in your article you make only a passing reference to the racist comments characterizing Sotomayor as a “reverse racist,” an “affirmative action pick, a Hispanic chick, making fun of her unpronounceable last name, or cartoon depictions of her strung up like a piñata with a sombrero as an “easy out for progressives…to waste all their time and oxygen debating Republicans, ridiculing and refuting their racism.” The Latino community, as do all communities of color, have a responsibility and yes even an obligation to refute unfounded attacks that stereotype Justice Sotomayor and by extension promote racist stereotypes against Latinos.
Second, you rightly note Justice Sotomayor’s participation on the Board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the main civil rights law firm for Latinos in the Northeast, but demean that participation by referring to the fact that she was “reportedly involved.” You state “No reports we have seen say that she personally filed those suits or that she ever appeared in court on behalf of litigants in discrimination and other lawsuits… she can hardly claim sole credit for it. The best barometer of her participation in PRLDEF is the statement of Puerto Ricans themselves. As Cesar Perales, the PRLDEF President stated “Sonia displayed an increasing amount of leadership on the board.” Unless of course you are going to parrot the white right and argue that Perales is only saying that because he’s Puerto Rican. She served nobly. By the way as I am sure you know board members don’t bring the cases in civil rights organizations.
Mr. Dixon, Ms. Sotomayor was one of 20 Hispanics in her class at Princeton and co-chairwoman of the Puerto Rican organization Accion Puertorriqueno where she wrote a complaint accusing Princeton of discrimination and convinced the leaders of the Chicano Caucus to co-sign it and filed it with the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare. As a result of her efforts, Princeton employed its first Hispanic administrator and invited a Puerto Rican professor to teach. (New York Times) Perhaps you also missed her Yale Law Review article where she urged the granting of special rights for off-shore mineral rights for Puerto Rico not enjoyed by U.S. states, a historical corollary to the Vieques struggle of the Puerto Rican nation. (New York Times-David Gonzalez)
The one point you raise that I wholeheartedly agree with is your recognition of the contributions of Justice Thurgood Marshal and his transformation of the legal and racial landscape. As an attorney Justice Marshal remains one of my heroes and is the most important Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. But I consider the Sotomayor nomination as part of the historical continuum of the Latino contribution to the broader struggle for civil rights. It is the cross fertilization of our communities struggle for legal equality.

For example, in the case of Mendez v. Westminster, nine years before Brown vs. the Board of Education, on March 2, 1945, five Latino fathers (Gonzalo Mendez, Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Frank Palomino, and Lorenzo Ramirez) challenged the practice of school segregation in the Ninth Federal District Court in Los Angeles. They claimed that their children, along with 5,000 other children of “Mexican and Latin descent”, were victims of unconstitutional discrimination by being forced to attend separate “Mexican” schools in the Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and El Modeno school districts of Orange County. Judge Paul J. McCormick ruled in favor of Mendez and his co-plaintiffs on February 18, 1946. As a result “separate but equal” ended in California schools and legally enforced separation of racial and national groups in the public education system. The governor of the state at this time was Earl Warren who later decided Brown.
I will not go on to cite all the contributions of Sotomayor this gifted jurist who is a legatee of our contributions to our struggle for social justice. Anybody with roots in our community understands this reality and can readily access her contributions through the internet or the written and oral histories of our community if they so desired.
Third, you maintain that her legal experience a “mere 12 years of legal experience” five as a prosecutor and 7 for and corporate firm is not significant. Perhaps in your analysis you failed to mention that Justice Sotomayor has more legal experience that any of the nominees on the present court had at the time. Even more troubling is your transparent attempts to cherry pick those cases that would present Justice Sotomayor in a negative pro-corporate light. As the New York Times indicated Justice Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed in the court in the past 70 years. She participated in over 3000 panel decisions and authored roughly 400 opinions.
Fourthly, you establish a false causal connection between the Rockefeller Drug laws and the development of the prison-industrial complex and Sotomayor. The article argues that during this period Sotomayor as a prosecutor did not inject herself in this scandalous imprisonment of people of color. I frankly don’t see the connection, did Sotomayor cause this situation? During this same historical period Puerto Ricans were held as Puerto Rican political prisoners in American prisons and many progressive lawyers did not speak out. Many jurist, liberals, and yes progressive of color have not played a leading role in denouncing the colonization of the Puerto Rican people (America’s last colony), despite the efforts of our people to bring our situation to the courts, yet I would not blame them for assisting the colonizers in their silence.
Five, you use a corporate news media source like the Wall Street Journal to argue that Justice Sotomayor not only represented corporate clients but rejoiced in that representation. You note that absent from the conversation is a cursory review of her (Sotomayor’s) legal career then proceed to offer your readers a less than cursory review of your own. I am particularly disturbed on how your article cherry picked the cases that pigeon hole the judge as pro-business- but conveniently ignored other decisions such as the 2006 case Merrill Lynch v. Dabit where she allowed class action lawsuits against Merrill Lynch or her ruling in favor of the players (workers) in the major league baseball strike. As many scholars have noted that her opinions do not necessarily put her in a pro- or anti-business camp. (New York Times-May 28)
It might also have been more intellectually honest to note the civil liberties decision by the Justice in the Ricci case allowing the city of New Haven to reject an exam that discriminated against African American and Latinos or her support against insensitive strip search of a 13 year old girl as intrusive. Or the case of United States v. Reimer where Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion revoking the US citizenship for a man charged with working for the Nazis in World War II Poland, guarding concentration camps and helping empty the Jewish ghettos. And in Lin v. Gonzales where she ordered renewed consideration of the asylum claims of Chinese women who experienced or were threatened with forced birth control
I would add that while I would not reject the argument that many of the Justice’s experience have also been corporate friendly as is most of the court, I don’t believe we have any “revolutionaries” on the bench. Will the nomination of Sotomayor destroy the corporate state/capitalism or free people of color from the racial oppression in the United States- no but is it a significant step forward- yes.
I am particularly troubled with the overall tenor of your article characterizing Justice Sotomayor as a “zealot advocate for multinational business” and an “easy out for progressives around the Sotomayor nomination is to waste all their time and oxygen debating Republicans, ridiculing and refuting their racism.” I am a progressive and I wholeheartedly reject your advice. Justice Sotomayor is reflective of the Puerto Rican/Latino experience in the United States. I would submit to you Mr. Dixon that recognizing a community’s leadership is about “respect” and I view your article as disrespectful and a cavalier dismissal of our historical experience.
As a New York born Puerto Rican I have spent a large part of my life organizing in the Latino community and struggling to build bridges between Latinos and African Americans. From the struggles against police brutality, to the Jackson campaign in 1984 and 1988, to support for the election of Mayor Dinkins, to the endorsement of candidate Obama for the Presidency who received 67 percent of the Latino vote. It is in the interest of both African Americans and Latinos to continue to cement the historical alliance between our communities and against the white supremacy that has relegated both our communities to the bottom of the economic ladder. “Sticking it” to our leaders and refusing to recognize the different levels of our “racialization” of our respective communities does not lend itself to that goal. It instead diminishes solidarity, weakens alliances, and deprives our communities of the benefits of sharing experiences.
As a regular reader of BAR I have enormous appreciation for the insight your publication has on issues of importance to all communities of color. I have read with interest your critiques of President Obama and embrace of Rosa Clemente’s candidacy as the first Afro-Puerto Rican Vice-Presidential candidate for the Green Party. That is why I was bitterly disappointed at your blind spot on the importance of the nomination of Sotomayor as “historical milestone.” The first African American President nominating the first Latina to the U.S. Supreme Court is reflective of a new Black-Brown paradigm in America where all contributions are fully recognized. We must bring together the legacies of those “those who picked cotton and those that cut sugar cane.” However, with all due respect, this will not be accomplished by promoting anti-Latino sentiments in the mainstream press.
Howard Jordan, host
The Jordan Journal
WBAI-Pacifica

Ask the Locals, Yes, but Which Ones?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

By David Gonzalez
City Room Blog
New York Times (May 27, 2008)

Five celebrities were featured when the “Just Ask the Locals” campaign, with tourism tips, started in August.You know you’re onto something when even Brooklynites extend a compassionate hand to their mainland rivals in the Bronx. Yet that is what happened after my City Room post in mid-May about hotels, tourism and the Bronx. Boosters of both boroughs know they are often seen as provincial outposts that could never rival the imperial majesty of Manhattan Island.

Yeah, right. As they say in some parts of the city — actually, many parts — “Que si que?” That’s Spanish for “Say what?”

Similar phrases are probably being uttered in Mandarin, Urdu, Arabic and any other of the dozens of languages spoken in this city by the locals. Yet, one advertising campaign intended to encourage tourists to “Just Ask the Locals” has a lopsided view of who the locals actually are.

Granted, the campaign (the ads for which can often be seen in the small black-and-yellow rectangular box on the top-right of the City Room blog front) is big on celebrities, fashionistas and people who are famous and fabulous in some circles. And to be fair, some of the advice posted online by nonfamous New Yorkers actually reflects city life and attractions on the other side of the East River (as do a few of the celebrity videos on the site).

But back to those celebrities. According to NYC & Company, which is behind the campaign, 27 people were chosen to participate in the campaign’s first two phases. Of those, six are black, one if half Korean and the rest — about 80 percent — are white (or, appear to be, anyway). That’s non-Hispanic white, by the way.

Mind you, the actual percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the city is 35 percent, according to the 2000 Census. Hispanics, who can be any race, accounted for 27 percent, black/African-American 24.5 percent and Asians accounted for 9.7 percent.

Jane Reiss, the chief marketing officer at NYC & Company, said the campaign was committed to representing more of the city’s diversity in terms of people and places. The personalities featured in the first two phases — “citizens of the city” who donated their time and wrote their own copy — were found through personal connections, a public relations agency and recommendations from partners of the tourism group.

Willie Colon, the salsa musician and sometime politico, has been working with the group for a while now, she said, and he is scheduled to shoot a video for the ad campaign soon.

“This campaign is evolving,” Ms. Reiss said. “We have a list of people we like to reach out to. It is very diverse. Ugly Betty is coming to the city, and we’re reaching out to America Ferrera.”

Ugly Betty is a New Yorker. America Ferrera, however, only plays one on television.

However, the cast of civic boosters was assembled, the travel tips seen on parts of the Web site hew toward the tried-and-trendy in Manhattan, by and large. Alan Cumming suggests a club on the Lower East Side, Sean Combs favors drinks at the Mandarin Oriental. One designer raves about custom-made shirts at Barneys, while another suggests that tourists check out the bargains in the flower district.

And while Deborah Harry recommends a club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she also promotes Kenkeleba Garden in the East Village as “one of my favorite little-known places.”

By these standards, the other four boroughs could be called “little-known places,” too.

The absence of any Latino celebrities — even Jennifer Lopez, though she and Marc Anthony live on Long Island now — is disheartening but not surprising to those who notice such things.

“Latino culture is invisible in this city,” said Arlene Dávila, a professor at New York University who has written about the intersection of culture, ethnicity and the city. “You have this whitewashed city, a very upscale city, free of ethnicity. This is a city which is more than a quarter Latino, and you cannot find a celebrity who is Latino? Hello!”

If by celebrity you mean someone who appears on television, another scholar has some bad news. Clara E. Rodriguez, a professor at Fordham University, looked at the casts of the most popular prime-time shows and found that even those set in New York featured few recurring Latino characters (as opposed to the janitor who shrugs and keeps sweeping when being questioned by a police officer in some cop show).

“People want to envision New York as Manhattan, where it is white, urban sophisticates and well-to-do,” she said. “It’s an old view of New York City, even if the shows are set in modern times.”

The 21st Century City – Five Borough Edition – has a little more flavor and fun. While the Bronx Tourism Council has yet to return a phone call from two weeks ago, regular e-mail messages from the Bronx Council on the Arts consistently laud dance, theater, exhibits and concerts from the borough that gave the world doo-wop, salsa and hip-hop.

The history of those last three genres can actually be traced, just by walking up Prospect Avenue, starting at Samuel Gompers High School (where Grandmaster Flash got his start), past Casa Amadeo (where Mike Amadeo still presides over a music store that has attracted generations of Latin artists), and into Morrisania (where vocal groups once harmonized on street corners and stairwells).
That’s just one street.

Then there is Brooklyn, whose borough president, Marty Markowitz, apparently never misses a chance to promote its people, neighborhoods and attractions. He thinks the “Just Ask the Locals” is a good start, and he praises the city for promoting tourism in recent years.

But, he added, consider these locals:

Mos Def, the actor and rapper? Brooklyn.
Jhumpa Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist? Brooklyn.
The Mighty Sparrow, King of Calypso? Queens, mainly.

“But he’s got a place in Brooklyn, too!” Mr. Markowitz said. “Whatever Brooklyn doesn’t have, Queens does. Between Brooklyn and Queens, we represent the world.”

Quick, somebody call Staten Island.

Black, Latino, Both: AfroLatinos and the Current Immigration Debate

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

afrolatin@ forum

presents

Black, Latino, Both
AfroLatinos and the Current Immigration Debate

Saturday, October 13, 2007
1–3 pm
at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
135th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard, NYC

How do changing notions of Blackness and Latinidad inform the
immigration debate? What social and political roles do Black Latinos
play in today’s discussions about race and ethnicity in the United
States?

Moderator: Howard Jordán – attorney, professor at Hostos
Community College, columnist and host of WBAI’s The Jordan Journal

Panelists: Clarence Lusane – political science professor at
American University, activist, journalist, and author of Race in the
Global Era.

Yvette Modestin – Afro-Panamanian activist concerned with issues
affecting women of African descent; founder and director of “Encuentro
Diaspora Afro” in Boston.

Ángela Pérez – immigrant from Colombia and student at the City College
of New York researching the effects of public policy on African
American–Latino relations in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Silvio Torres-Saillant – professor at Syracuse University, founding
Director of the City University of New York Dominican Studies
Institute, and co-author of The Dominican Americans.

This event is co-sponsored by
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture–NYPL and El Museo del Barrio

To reserve your seat call 212.491.2229, or send
an email to: schomburgrsvp@nypl.org.

Open and free to the public.